8 Steps to Become a Dream Client4 min read.
To produce world-class employer branding agencies and clients must forge a working alliance based on trust, empathy and understanding. Becoming a favourite client rather than just another name on the roster will produce better outcomes on both sides of the line. Here's how to do it...
Crafting an irresistible employer brand demands skill, strategy, and immaculate execution. But even the savviest agencies struggle to shine without engaged and empathic clients who understand their role in the process.
Like many things in life, it boils down to relationships but, if those aren’t tricky enough for you, it is about so much more as well – boundaries, organisation, process, time, resource and much more.
Crafting a great relationship is the difference between just being a name on the agency's list and being one of their favourite clients.
Vicki Saunders, formerly and most recently the employer brand leader at electrical retail giant Currys and boasting more than 25 years helping brands attract talent (including 22 pitches), is perfectly placed to decode the client/agency behaviours that make or break working partnerships.
Speaking recently in a webinar How to Unlock EB potential by Being a Great Client with members of the Ph-Creative strategy team, she likens the client-agency relationship to a marriage. The tender and selection process mirrors the dating phase. Contract signing is akin to wedding vows. Then reality sets in - will daily life nurture affinity or inhibit it?
“Once you've been through the pitch process, you get into onboarding, when you're bringing your agency on board with your brand,” she explains. “Shortly after that, you start wanting to create some work, so typically the client will write a brief to the agency, that brief will go into creative development at the agency, and there'll be a whole time of iteration and development and perfecting the work. Then we go to production - actually making the assets that come out of that creative development process, and then everything goes live.
“After that, we want to measure the work, optimise it, make sure it's as effective as it can be. What is generally really good practice after a campaign, is to do a what we call a PCA or Post Campaign Analysis. A bit of a wash up of what's gone well, what's not gone so well, and what could we do differently in the future.
“And then there's an ongoing governance phase. How are we keeping that relationship healthy over time? At some point, you'll probably be in a situation as a client that you'll need to re-pitch the account. That can happen for a number of reasons - maybe you want to see what else is out there, see if there's other fresh thinking from other agencies. It could be that you're not really satisfied with the agency you have, or it could simply be your internal processes, where there's governance wrapped around how often any tender and any new contract needs to be written.
“So, you might be pitching your account at a time that you're perfectly happy with your agency. And I've done that a couple of times. And then you should consider how you off board your agency in a healthy way, as well.”
Just like personal relationships, certain foundational elements enable professional ones to thrive. There are several key issues that can make or break a working relationship, here’s how to keep it harmonious…
Don’t Rush Pitches
Clients often demand fully conceived strategies within weeks when proper procurement would afford months. Such extreme timelines bleed quality and can establish false expectations. Agencies often don’t know much about a client at first. So, don’t assume that they do and allow them added time to learn. At least six weeks as a rule of thumb. Even if the agency works a two-week miracle, that level of pressure won’t be sustainable.
Have ‘The Talk’
Even when faced with challenges, resilient couples talk issues through rather than ignoring tensions. Communicating, especially when times are tough, is critical. Silence is death in any relationship and the client/agency dynamic is no different. Nothing is better for forging understanding than face to face (or voice to voice) contact. But when that’s not feasible, make use of the numerous digital tools for sharing work, ideas, and feedback. Keep the line open.
Stay in Your Lane
In successful marriages, partners play to individual strengths while upholding collective commitments. Clear demarcation also allows agencies to excel. When clients fail to provide proper detailed context, briefs suffer, resulting in misguided work.
No relationship survives on autopilot. Couples consciously carve out couple time amidst busy lives. Invest time in agency relationships” too, particularly amidst remote work. Shared moments strengthen bonds.
Show Some Respect
While accepting differences, healthy marriages involve appreciation of respective value brought to the table. Clients must similarly respect an agency’s hard-won creative expertise, providing space for talents to properly deploy.
Just as happy households have established ways of operating, seek clarity around process. It all contributes to great client-agency relationships. Onboarding is critical for immersion while rhythmic rituals like status reports act as connective tissue between agency and client.
Mind the Gap
Grand visions outlined often wildly eclipse actual brief content and parameters provided to execute on those desires. Without proper goals, resources and context alignment, agencies swim upstream.
When clients don't directly experience agency presentations, indirect feedback gets fragmented. Without cohesion, direction suffers. Consolidating stakeholder perspectives is essential.
In the end, commitment to unlocking employer brand greatness mirrors investment in a healthy, lasting relationship. A good partnership is a shared endeavour requiring empathy, patience, and nurturing despite the occasional bump in the road.
By upholding such behaviours, you put your agency in the best position to show your best employer branding work.
Checklist for Contentment
- Maintain open and timely communication.
- Establish routines that work for each other and do them well.
- Set clear expectations and requirements upfront.
- Continually invest face time and energy
- Respect differences and leverage creative expertise.
- Standardise touch points and status updates.
- Allow the agency to share work in progress if they want.
- Ensure alignment between ambition and scope.
- Provide sufficient context to enable inspiration.
- Consolidate feedback from all stakeholders.
Now go out and forge an unbeatable alliance with your clients.